As I'm sure everybody knows by now in this age of instantaneous communications, Tiger Woods has addressed the media for the first time since his November 27 car accident. Over the course of the 15-minute apology, he addressed his wrongdoings, admitted to being in therapy, and left open the door for a return to golf within the year.
"Every one of you has reason to be critical of me," Woods told the crowd at the beginning of his statement. But Woods' own criticism, that of the media and the way it has handled this story, is just as potent.
According to Woods, the media has "staked out" his wife, Elin Nordegren, and "pursued" his mother. Worst of all, he told the world of how paparazzi followed his daughter, age two and a half, to school, and released the address of the school publicly.
He then firmly asked the media, "Leave my family alone."
Certainly, what Tiger Woods did was reprehensible. Nobody debates or doubts that. But that does not give the media the right to act similarly.
I am going to school for journalism. It is what I want to do with my life. But I also like to think I maintain a shred of integrity. I like to think that I do not impose myself on people, or cross boundaries that should not be crossed, or put people in compromising situations. Obviously they haven't taught those sort of ethics in journalism classes for a while now.
It's bad enough that paparazzi speculation led to this whole mess. Certainly, there was a secret that was going to come out anyway, and at first they did their jobs — they exposed corruption and exacerbated his admission of infidelity. Good for them. That's what journalism is designed to do — hold people in power accountable for their actions.
But there is a line between what people deserve to know and what is nobody's business, and the media has crossed it more than once over the past three months.
Of course, the big story that everybody is chasing is details of Woods' many extramarital encounters. Woods adamantly declared that those are issues that should remain "between a husband and a wife."
He has a point. How many of us would like the gory details of our dirty laundry aired out to the world? Just because Tiger Woods is famous, doesn't give us the right to every detail of his private life.
He said that the same rules apply to him as anybody else. But just as he must maintain fidelity and integrity, he does have the right to privacy, as do the rest of us. Nobody has the right to deny him, or anybody else, that right, but that's exactly what the media has been trying to do.
In response to this lack of information, false stories have been made up and passed around as fact. The first commandment of journalism is supposed to be truth, not a good story. As good of a story it was to proclaim that Nordegren knocked out Woods' front teeth with a nine-iron, Woods' statement assured us that it was not the truth. If so, we've been passing around a media-fabricated lie as fact for months. What happened to fact-checking?
The media's desire for more, more, more has affected not only the Woods family, but others around Woods as well. Minnesota Vikings kicker Ryan Longwell lives in the same gated community as Woods. Like Woods, he has an attractive blonde wife. Longwell complained in the early stages of the controversy that his wife could no longer step outside without the paparazzi — sometimes in constantly present helicopters — focusing on her.
And what logical reason can we give for releasing the address of the school that Woods' toddler daughter attends? Why would we even be going there? Are we going to try to interview a little girl who probably doesn't understand the first thing about this mess? Are we that desperate for something to print?
To an extent, this issue is a microcosm of what is wrong with our country as a whole. We're incredibly nosy. We love to watch those in power fall — hell, America was founded on bringing down British colonial control. We eschew long-term, legitimate problems, like our nation's economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, for short-term, sensationalist, tabloid "news."
If Tiger Woods is ashamed for cheating, so should we all be for following so closely.
And to those in tabloid "journalism": Shame on you most of all. You have crossed the lines of human dignity and respect for persons. You have done it far more than Woods has done, seeing as there are so many more of you.
Think of how you would feel if your wife was staked out and your mother was chased and the details of your two-and-a-half-year-old daughter's school were released because of something you, and only you, did. If you wouldn't have a problem with this, I suppose that explains a lot about the way you conduct yourselves; but if you think like the grand majority of humans do, you'd be pretty angry, too.
Your desire is not to expose corruption, as good journalists aim to do. Your desire is to make a quick buck off of celebrity gossip. I believe that what you do is pathetic. You exploit the curiosity inherent in human nature as a way to hurt and annoy others and make yourselves rich. I have no respect for you.
It's time for those of us in the media to back off and let Tiger Woods sort out his problems. If he wants to speak to us more thoroughly, that is his right. But it is not ours to force a troubled man's issues out of him like a tube of toothpaste.